Wednesday, October 7, 2015

BREAKING: Major Fire at Chicago Traditional Mass Church, Shrine of Christ the King

Credit: Mike Krauser/WBBM
From what I can tell, there appears to be major, perhaps even irreparable damage to this Latin Mass Church on Chicago's South Side. Local CBS Chicago reports:
CHICAGO (CBS) — An extra-alarm fire was burning early Wednesday at a landmark church in the Woodlawn neighborhood. 
The Fire Department first responded to the fire at Shrine of Christ The King, 6401 S. Woodlawn Av. shortly before 6 a.m., when smoke alarms went off in a neighboring building, but fire officials said the blaze might have been burning well before then. 
The building, previously named St. Gelasius Church, received city landmark status in 2004. 
When the first firefighters arrived at the scene, they saw fire through a couple windows of the church, and once they got inside, they found “an awful lot of fire within the church itself,” according to Deputy Fire Commissioner John McNicholas. 
Firefighters were pulled out of the building, and a defensive operation was set up to prevent the blaze from spreading to any neighboring buildings. 
A total of about 150 firefighters and 50 pieces of fire equipment responded to the blaze. 
The fire caused extensive damage to the roof, which eventually collapsed. The interior of the building was expected to be a total loss, and fire officials were concerned the steeple might collapse as well. 
As of 8 a.m., firefighters had the fire under control, but were expected to be on the scene for several hours. 
“The fire is under control. We have it surrounded, but we’re going to be on the scene here for quite a few hours,” McNicholas said. “When the roof systems failed, those roof systems fell into the main body of the church, so we have a lot of hidden fire that we just don’t see yet. So we will be on scene for quite a while.” 
No injuries have been reported, but a shelter for women and children next door was evacuated as a precaution. 
The Fire Department Office of Fire Investigations and the Police Bomb & Arson Unit were investigating the cause of the blaze, but officials said it appeared to be accidental. 
Fire officials said preliminary reports indicated workers were putting down varnish on floors in the choir loft Tuesday night, and investigators were trying to determine if the fire might have been the result of that work. The church had been undergoing a multimillion dollar renovation before the fire started. 
The St. Gelasius Church building was built in the 1920s, designed by architect Henry J. Schlacks, who designed several other churches in Chicago and the suburbs, and taught the first formal courses in architecture at the University of Notre Dame in the 1890s.

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